-story courtesy of the California Women's Amateur Championships
CARMEL, Calif. (August 8, 2014) — Carmen Gutierrez Ballon already was a national amateur champion in her homeland of Peru. Now, she has her first amateur crown in the States. Gutierrez Ballon, who was recruited by and plays for Cal-Berkeley, won the California Women’s Amateur Championship on Friday at par-71 Quail Lodge Golf Club, defeating runner-up Victoria Morgan of Pasadena, 1-up in the 18-hole finale.
Gutierrez Ballon was the highest seed remaining (No.8) following the first two rounds of match play. Morgan was the No.30 seed.
“It’s amazing. It was really tough from the beginning to the end,” said Gutierrez Ballon, an 18-year-old sophomore at Cal. “I had some great shots that didn’t go my way early, but at the end of the round it all came together.”
For Gutierrez Ballon, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
Trailing throughout the first 15 holes, Gutierrez Ballon finally brought the match back to all-square when Morgan missed a 2-foot putt for par on the 16th. A hole later on the par-3 17th, Guttierez Ballon, whose full name is Carmen Lucia Gutierrez Ballon Valdivia, took her first lead of the match, 1-up, when she sank a 6-foot birdie putt. Morgan, a 20-year-old sophomore at USC, had just minutes earlier missed her 15-foot birdie try.
On the par-4 18th, both players missed the green in regulation. Morgan, the Most Valuable Player of the Boys’ varsity golf squad at Polytechnic School in Pasadena in 2012, was unable to make birdie and had to settle for par. Gutierrez, who was in the bunker behind the green, got out and sank her remaining 5-foot putt for par to seal the victory.
“I was really nervous over that putt on 18. It wasn’t easy,” Gutierrez Ballon said. “I told myself, just put the right speed on it. I took a big breath and just focused on it.”
For Morgan, who didn’t really start playing competitively until she was a junior in high school due to her fellow affection for tennis, it wasn’t just the 17th and 18th holes that did her in. It was earlier on the back-nine that the feel for her putter began to disappear.
“Putts were dropping for me early, but after that my putting just wasn’t quite as good,” said Morgan, who jumped to a 3-up lead through the first five holes thanks to three birdie putts. “On the back, I thought I could get away with just making pars and not making any mistakes. Carmen had a great finish.”
It was on the pivotal 16th hole, which ended up being the turning point in the match, that Morgan’s putter deserted her.
“It’s not the first time I’ve missed a putt that short and it’s not the last time,” said Morgan, a Trojans walk-on. “It was just a slip.”
Despite the quick deficit, and being behind 2-up at the turn, Gutierrez Ballon said she never questioned herself.
“Overall, during the week I trailed a lot, so I never felt in trouble,” Gutierrez Ballon said. “That and I felt very comfortable on the back-nine. Even when I was down by three I felt that I would make it up.”
Gutierrez Ballon didn’t waste any time in sharing the good news. She made a quick call to her parents down in Lima, Peru to tell them about her win.
“My mom was really, really happy,” Gutierrez Ballon said.
View results for California Women's Amateur Golf Championship